Recently Bangladesh has witnessed some of the worst communal violence. Dozens, possibly hundreds of homes have been ransacked and heinous crimes including rape and murder perpetrated by Bangladeshis against Bangladeshis. Though tragically such violence, especially against minority communities is not new, the scale of recent attacks should give cause for alarm, especially as it raises serious question about the country’s will and ability to protect its own citizens.
Given the fact that Bangladesh Awami League, the Party under whose leadership our country achieved the independence established an independent state on the basis of the high ideals of nationalism, democracy and secularism. Unfortunately, the ideal of secularism has long been jettisoned and the country is lurching towards fundamentalism. Intolerance and bigotry has taken hold and as a direct result of this free thinking appears under attack and many Bangladeshis no longer feel safe in their own country.
Some organizations and individuals seem intent on sowing dissention and hatred, so much so that they are encouraging attacks on diverse Bangladeshis ranging from bloggers and religious teachers to minority communities and foreigners. Once again recent events in Nasirabad and in many other places have shown that either the Government and the forces of law and order have been negligent in their duty in regards to protecting law abiding citizens, or that they are complicit is such vile attacks.
It was even heard that public servant, no less than a government minister uttered unlawful and hateful words towards minorities who had been attacked. Such behavior is intolerable and besmirches our nation and its founding ideals. The deafening silence from the Government is being taken by the fundamentalists as tacit approval for their threats, intimidation and cowardly attacks. Many in the wider world look on at what is happening, and naturally are having second thoughts about visiting or investing in Bangladesh. The climate of fear and mistrust is now a very serious threat to peace, prosperity and security of a nation that we cherish.
As Bangladeshis we do not want to see a country that becomes a land of ‘us and them’. We know only too well what suffering means. That is why we call on Her Excellency the Prime Minister and the entire Government to act in concert to put an end to the bigotry and persecution that is destroying lives and entire communities. It is time for firm and decisive action. Those officials who fail to protect citizens dismissed and if necessarily prosecuted using the full force of the law. All the signs are that fundamentalists and terrorist sympathizers are on a mission to destroy Bangladesh. They will rely on inaction and weakness on the part of the Government. Now is a time for clear denunciations and robust action. After all an attack on a child, a priest or a place of worship is an attack on our values and to all intents and purposes an attack on each and every one of us.
Thus we respectfully call upon the Government to awake from its apparent slumber and defend ordinary citizens with the same determination that it would the borders of this nation we hold dear.
What we need is enforcement of the rule of law, and the ability freely exercise the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh. We hope and pray that Her Excellency the Prime Minister will take this matter seriously, as the very existence of Bangladesh as a democratic and forward thinking country is under threat. We respectfully ask the Government of Bangladesh demonstrate a unity of purpose, and show a courage and determination worthy of the Bangladeshi people that it was elected to protect and serve.